The Magic of Neuroplasticity - Or -How I Changed My Brain
Our brains are magical! They are capable of changing form and function. They can generate new brain cells, change neural pathways, and create new synapses. This magical function is known as neuroplasticity. It wasn’t that long ago that neuroscientists believed our brains stopped changing when we reached our late twenties. Our brains were fixed and the brains we had would then continue to decline with age and there was little we could do about that. The discovery of neuroplasticity changed everything that was held as truth about the brain.
Certain neuroscientists refused to believe that the brain was capable of change.. Despite much push-back from the scientific community they continued to press on and discovered neuroplasticity.
Wikipedia refers to neuroplasticity as “changes in neural processes and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as, changes resulting from bodily injuries”. It turns out that the brain is constantly changing and that goes on throughout our entire life. Brain changes occur on many levels from cellular changes due to learning to large scale changes involving cortical mapping in response to injury (Wikipedia).
I am living proof of the power of the brain to change and adapt. I have Meniere’s disease – a balance disorder. The right side of my brain was only contributing 15% to balance function and it was causing major dizziness and balance problems. So I had brain surgery to clip the vestibular nerve at the brain stem. As soon as that was done the right side of my brain received no signals and did not contribute to my balance function. The left side of my brain had to take over complete balance function. It was a slow process but after much rehab and constant challenge of my balance system, the left side of my brain is doing great keeping me upright. It still amazes me.
Research has shown that experience can actually change the structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) of the brain. Our brain adapts to our environment – positively or negatively. If you continually present negative learning experiences to your brain it may decline. Positive experiences create cell growth and resilience through synaptic creation. Think of the power we possess to be able to create high functioning brains by exposing them to novel and complex
The magic of neuroplasticity – we have the responsibility to give our brains the best experiences possible.